Sarah Lewis Seeks FIS Comeback

(ATR) Former FIS secretary general declares her candidacy for the presidency of the IF six months after being dismissed.

(ATR) Former International Ski Federation (FIS) secretary general Sarah Lewis declares her candidacy for the presidency of the organization six months after being unceremoniously dismissed.

Questions have remained unanswered about the reasons the FIS Council removed Lewis from a position that she occupied for two decades. At the time, FIS only issued a short statement noting that it was due to "a complete loss of confidence" and "by a great majority vote".

The surprise firing of Lewis, amid the pandemic which has twice delayed FIS elections, complicated matters at the top of the IF’s leadership structure just weeks prior to the competitive winter season.

"I can’t explain it at all – I was so focused on the COVID season," Lewis said, in an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday. "I was probably blind-sided that there were politics going on behind the scenes."

The official candidacy nomination was submitted Tuesday to the FIS by the Royal Belgian Ski Federation, of which she is a member. Lewis skied for Great Britain at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

The British ski federation nominated the billionaire leader of the Head ski and tennis brand, Johan Eliasch, prior to the pandemic, instead of Lewis. Eliasch is based in London and holds dual British and Swedish citizenship. He has been a major supporter and supplier to numerous top racers on the tour, launching the successful ‘Head Rebels’ brand.

Other candidates for the FIS presidency – the election to be held at a virtual Congress on June 4 – include Swiss ski federation president Urs Lehmann, a former downhill world champion, and Swedish NOC president Mats Arjes, who was a member of the FIS Council that dismissed Lewis.

If Lewis, 56, were to be elected she would become only the fifth ever, and first female, president in the 97-year history of the international federation whose disciplines comprise more than half of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games program.

The British Olympian is pledging to transform FIS into a global movement for world skiing and snowboarding as part of her FIS Piste Map - the blueprint for the future of the organization.

"We are entering a new era for FIS and global sport - an era that requires FIS to tackle its role in a changed, more inclusive and demanding society, and an era that FIS must embrace for growth, a healthy future for our sport, with our athletes at the center," Lewis said.

"I am now making this journey for one reason - to work together to build a FIS that is fully representative of the global ski and snow sport community, and fully equipped to take us well into the second centennial of FIS, with a crystal clear plan, transparency and accountability," she said. "Together I believe we can achieve much more."

Lewis also vows to implement a COVID Recovery Fund for the 135-member ski and snow sport National Associations, renounce a presidential salary and introduce modernized financial efficiencies. Gender diversity, athlete, youth and emerging member nations initiatives, strengthening the relationship between ski, snow sport tourism, and focusing on sustainability, the environment and legacies for mountain regions, are also priorities according to Lewis.

The longstanding FIS president and former IOC member Gian-Franco Kasper stands down after 23 years. The virtual election on June 4, which would have taken place in Portoroz, Slovenia, will be the first election of its kind in FIS history.

Lewis also served as secretary general of the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF), but was relieved of this position when she was dismissed from FIS.

Written and reported by Brian Pinelli

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